Hot off the press from PWCS-an overview of the final budget.

At tonight’s meeting, the Prince William County School Board unanimously adopted the 2009-10 General Operating Budget of $782,126,633. This amount includes recent adjustments in both expenditures and revenue following the recent addition of $34.5 million in federal stimulus funds and Title I low income and Title VI-B special education monies. Included in the budget is a 2.9 percent Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) made possible by the reduction of other expenditures in the budget, including a reduction in other benefits and compensation such as decreasing the 403(b) employer match from five percent to four percent. It is important to note that no stimulus money will be spent for the COLA.

“Never in the history of Prince William County Public Schools has there been a budget challenge of the magnitude we faced this year,” said Dr. Steven L. Walts, Superintendent of Schools. “As a context, approximately 82 percent of our budget directly supports instruction through salaries and benefits of our employees, making it quite a challenge to maintain the excellent programs we have in place while preserving as many jobs as possible.”

Expected revenues for PWCS are going down while the costs associated with educating 1,423 additional students and other normal factors for a growing school division are going up. This originally resulted in a gap of $94 million, which had to be cut from next year’s budget, including substantial position reductions across the School Division.

The federal stimulus funds provided welcome relief but still left significant cuts in place. However, the federal stimulus package will offset the funding reductions from the state. At this time, the reductions in the 2009-10 budget now come as a result of reductions in county revenue; the stimulus has replaced only the state cuts. Additional federal revenue for Title I and Title VI-B are intended for program improvement and generally cannot be used to offset previous budget reductions.

These most recent budget adjustments have also allowed us to improve regular education class sizes from the Proposed Budget. While the ratios are still increasing, they won’t be increasing as much as originally planned. This still leaves the School Division very close to the maximum allowable class sizes in all grade levels and there has been an incremental increase in recent years to help balance previous budgets.

Other highlights of the approved budget are the restoration of positions to minimize and hopefully avoid employee layoffs, the restoration of funding for students to take tests such as IB and AP, and the restoration of the middle school athletic program (with the addition of a participation fee).

With tonight’s approval, the School Board will now submit the 2009-10 Budget to the Board of County Supervisors for appropriation, which will occur by April 30.